Although some aspects in life remain distant from each other, some just need a little push to work out well. Equality is an example of what this little push is all about: if you and your other half feel that you are not fit for each other, then put an end to your relationship. But if you are sincere enough, surely you will exert a little push to prove that you two are meant to be.
What if we apply this little push to those individuals and communities who are continually striving to keep up with the modern world?
Last 2003, Malacañang published Proclamation No. 486 marking the 29th of October as the “National Indigenous People (IP) Thanksgiving Day” in order to render due recognition and national attention to the importance of these individuals. Later on in 2009, Malacañang passed Proclamation No. 1906, declaring the month of October as the “National Indigenous People’s Month”. For seven years now, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines has successfully implemented the celebration of IP month.
The country houses many ethnic groups across its lands who trace back to the first people of the Philippines themselves, even beyond the times of colonization from foreign powers. In our very own Mindanao, many IP groups such as the Lumads, Bagobos and Manobos are present; these people preserve Mindanao’s purest cultures and traditions. The tests of time, however, as well as the ill plans of people against them, threaten our IPs.
Closer to home, IPs also have trouble integrating with modern society. Apparently, discrimination still puts them at the shorter end of the stick.
Vincent (not his real name), an Atenewan who came from an indigenous tribe, confesses that he never believed that he was unified with other Ateneans because of his lineage.
“Before, I always felt left behind and unwanted by my classmates and even some of my professors. Now, I feel like I don’t have to be affected by other people’s opinions against me anymore,” Vincent says.
Vincent believes that IPs are underrepresented in the campus, and that people would only like to believe otherwise. Rather than feeling excluded completely by his peers, Vincent turns his cheek. For him, respect in the university seems bleak, and would rather ignore this altogether and continue to do his best.
“All of us were born to stand out anyway, and I’m living up to that,” Vincent concludes.
Clearly this situation is unfair for IPs, but is this separation also applicable in society at large?
Based on the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), IPs constitute about five percent of the world’s population and yet account for 15% of its poverty, which is one third of the Earth’s 900 million extremely poor rural people. Instead of shifting our attention to these individuals, we tend to focus on other things. We become oblivious to the escalating poverty rate within the society and within the IPs, thinking that the already rich can save the entire world from drowning.
Nonetheless, indigenous people are not always in the minority. In Bolivia and Guatemala, IPs, according to the United Nations Development Programme, make up more than half of the total population. Sadly, according to the World Bank, the indigenous poverty gap in Latin America continues to grow wider regardless of their majority advantage. The case becomes more alarming since only a minute portion of their community comprises the well-off class.
At status quo, injustice grips the indigenous people by the neck. Discrimination and poverty haunt them.
Our celebration of the IP month is not just any ordinary festivity; it tells us that the Earth would not have been complete without these indigenous tribes. Hidden from the crowd’s view, they are those who strive to stay true to their roots as modernization tries to replace those with an artificial one. This commemoration reminds us to be aware of what has become of us and to respect our cultural heritage.
Formulating cheers and shouting them out to prove their worth is not enough for one to be called a leader or a supporter. This action still lacks that little push. You have to experience the life of the marginalized, and not just that of the superior, to understand what this little push is all about.
If you were Vincent, would you still try to fit in? Would you continue to hide in the shadows of those oppressing you? Or would you choose to stand out?
Developing mutual trust in one another is what it takes to bring out unity. And when there’s unity, there’s equality. We must all work together in order to achieve a common goal, in order to accomplish that one mission.
Should we sit idly by when injustice consumes the cultural roots and fruit of our land? All we need is that little push.
Photo taken from the Manila Times.